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Icy Sidewalks Spark Outrage Over Janitorial Services [Aramark] at Sutherland

Substance News, By Howard Ludwig | January 12, 2016

Students are released at the end of the day on Monday at Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly. Cleanliness has become an issue since icy sidewalks last Monday sparked a debate over janitorial service provider Aramark.

 

DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

BEVERLY — Icy sidewalks proved to be a launching pad for parents upset about the janitorial services at Sutherland Elementary School.

Students returned from winter break last Monday to find most of the sidewalks hadn’t been shoveled or were cleared with only narrow paths, said Colleen Loehr, of Beverly.

Loehr volunteers as a traffic moderator on Monday mornings and Tuesday afternoons at the school at 10015 S. Leavitt St. in Beverly. Her sons, Ryan, 9, and William, 7, are third- and first-graders.

She’s stationed at the kiss-and-go drop-off at the northwest corner of the school on Monday mornings. As she was unloading children and their backpacks last week, kids were slipping and falling. Concerned parents stopped, causing frustration by hurried parents waiting behind.

“Three or four kids fell, and two more were crying,” Loehr said.Word spread quickly on the school’s Facebook page that shoveling the sidewalk is the responsibility of the Sutherland’s janitorial staff, which was handed over to Aramark this year.

 

The news sparked outrage, as parents vented not only about the unsafe sidewalks but also about the unkempt conditions at the school of 697 students in the heart of Beverly

…Parent volunteers reported seeing mice and rats in the cafeteria, trash strewed in the classrooms and horrendous smells as well as gross conditions in the bathrooms.

Melanie Howe said on Monday that she and her husband volunteered to teach a program to fifth-graders on Dec. 7. She arrived before the students had entered the building and was greeted with a filthy scene.

“Garbage cans were full. The floor was covered in spills wet and dry, large and small. Condiment packets were squashed open and dried to the floor. Half eaten food was also on the floor and tables,” said Howe on Monday.

The outcry led to parents demanding action from Principal Eric Steinmiller, Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) and Aramark. Steinmiller would not comment and a call to Willie Porter, a district manager for Aramark, was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.

But on Monday, Michael Passman, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools issued a written statement on the situation.

“CPS and Aramark have been working closely with Sutherland staff to ensure the school provides students with a safe and healthy learning environment. A thorough plan of action has been developed to address concerns, and the school will receive additional custodial support on weekends to improve school cleanliness,” Passman said.

Still, O’Shea said this wasn’t the first time he’s heard about issues involving cleanliness at Sutherland. He met with Aramark officials along with parents and school administrators at the school on Nov. 2 to discuss the problem.

“Aramark had conceded that yes they’d had some issues,” O’Shea said on Friday.

The company vowed to clean up its act, and O’Shea had assumed progress had been made until the icy sidewalks brought a fresh batch of issues to the forefront. As a result, he took to Facebook encouraging parents to attend Sutherland’s Local School Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19.

“The LSC there is very dedicated,” O’Shea said on Friday. “Aramark needs to do better.”

Loehr plans to attend the meetings and is encouraging others to do so as well. She said the sidewalks weren’t cleared by the end of the school day on Monday, but the paths were free of snow and ice on Tuesday and have been good since.

Still, she said conditions in the school are troubling, adding that her two sons refuse to put their food on the sticky lunch tables at school. Instead, they use their lunch boxes as placemats.

Brian Roache, of Beverly, has a kindergartner and third-grader at Sutherland. He frequently volunteers and said he, too, has seen mice in the school. He said some days are worse than others and doesn’t blame the custodians for the situation.

“It’s gotten significantly worse since Aramark has taken over,” Roache said.

 

Sutherland LSC Meeting To Focus on Cleanliness, Janitorial Provider Aramark

Substance News, By Howard Ludwig | January 19, 2016

Students are released at the end of the day last Monday at Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly. Cleanliness has become an issue since icy sidewalks sparked a debate over janitorial service provider Aramark.

BEVERLY — Parents at Sutherland Elementary will be able to voice their concerns about school cleanliness at a meeting of the Local School Council at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Issues with the school’s janitorial service provider, Aramark, came to the forefront when students returned to school from winter break on Jan. 4. Icy sidewalks proved to be a launching pad for parents upset with the level of sanitation and general upkeep of the school at 10015 S. Leavitt St. in Beverly. Much of their frustration played out on the school’s Facebook page.

The agenda for the meeting indicates that Aramark will present a “timeline for school improvement” to the council. The gathering will also allow for public comment, which is limited to two minutes per person.

 

In response to a DNAinfo article last week, Michael Passman, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools issued a written statement on the janitorial situation at Sutherland.

“CPS and Aramark have been working closely with Sutherland staff to ensure the school provides students with a safe and healthy learning environment. A thorough plan of action has been developed to address concerns, and the school will receive additional custodial support on weekends to improve school cleanliness,” Passman said.

But this isn’t the first time there has been complaints at Sutherland about the company that was handed over the school’s janitorial services this year.

Principal Eric Steinmiller, Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), some Local School Council members and others met with the Aramark on Nov. 2 to discuss the conditions at the school with 697 students in the heart of Beverly.

Aramark admitted to its shortcomings at the time and promised the situation would improve, O’Shea said.

With a fresh batch of complaints on hand, the alderman urged residents to attend Tuesday night’s meeting to voice their concerns directly to Aramark brass.  “Aramark needs to do better,” O’Shea said.

 

Parents at West Side school volunteer — to clean restrooms and classrooms

A sign on a Suder Montessori Magnet Elementary School classroom door verifies that a classroom is clean on Dec. 19, 2015. Parents spent Saturday morning cleaning classrooms and bathrooms because of what they say has been “inadequate custodial work.”

Marwa EltagouriContact Reporter

Chicago Tribune

December 19, 2015, 6:19 p.m.

In light of Chicago Public Schools‘ financial challenges, parents expect to be asked to pitch in more at their children’s schools. But janitorial work usually isn’t on the list of volunteer opportunities.

On Saturday, a handful of parents of pre-kindergarten students packed yellow rubber gloves and spray bottles of vinegar and baking soda solution and headed to Suder Montessori Elementary Magnet School, 2022 W. Washington Blvd., on the Near West Side, where they spent the morning cleaning their children’s washrooms.

The parents felt they didn’t have a choice: Upon entering the bathrooms, they found pools of day-old urine on the floor, feces smeared on the walls and clogged, stinking toilet bowls. In the past few weeks, the school had an E. coli outbreak, and more than half of the kindergarten students missed school because of various illnesses, including a stomach bug, diarrhea or vomiting, said Michelle Burgess, head of the school’s parent-teacher association.

“These are preschoolers. They go to the bathroom and miss. The boys play in the urinals. And sometimes can’t get to the toilet fast enough. It’s understandable,” said Angela Morales, the parent of two children who attend the school. “But they need to clean. We can’t have our kids be in this filth.”

Parents claim the unsanitary bathroom conditions, overflowing garbage cans and soiled napping cots are the result of inadequate custodial care following the Chicago Board of Education’s decision last spring to award multimillion-dollar custodial management contracts to two firms, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC.

The decision to privatize much of the custodial work was made in light of “daunting financial challenges” faced by the district, CPS officials have said. Surveys conducted by principals and parent organizations at the beginning of the school year aired numerous complaints of filthy conditions inside some school buildings after the custodial changes.

CPS group rips ‘Magic’ custodian deal, contributions to Emanuel campaign

Aramark and Chicago Public School officials could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

Questions about school cleanliness grew further in early September when district officials announced that close to 480 subcontracted custodians who work in CPS buildings would be laid off by Aramark…CPS officials in March signed a minimum three-year contract worth up to $260 million with Aramark. SodexoMAGIC also received a minimum three-year, up to $80 million contract for facility upkeep earlier this year.

The reduced contracts, Suder parents say, have led to the school operating with two full-time custodians and one part-time custodian as opposed to operating with four full-time custodians as it had in previous years. Parents claim that since the reductions, janitors have done a poor job maintaining regular cleaning duties and, for the past three months, have mopped the floor with water—and nothing else.

One of the school’s janitor closets revealed empty cleaning solution bottles, which parents say Aramark has yet to resupply.

CPS promises to clean up custodial issues

Parents also said the school’s principal, Alexander Phillips, has had limited success trying to improve the circumstances, which they say are out of his control. Saturday was the first time the parents decided to clean the classrooms and bathrooms themselves.

“With us pitching in, though, what happens to the long-term efforts? We’re concerned that this is sending a message that Aramark is inadequate, and that parents will always be there to fill in the gaps,” said parent Sylvia Wood, who has a son in pre-K. “The reality is that we’re tired of our kids getting sick.”

Morales, one of the parents, said she’s grateful for the quality of education her children receive. The school is driven by parent volunteers, who recently helped build an edible garden at the school with a greenhouse, chicken coop, vegetable garden and outdoor classroom and lunch area.

But parents shouldn’t have to put volunteer hours into cleaning classrooms or bathrooms.

“This is where our kids come to learn, where they spend their day,” she said. “It’s all horrible. Just horrible.”